FRONT PAGE NEWS: Giving rise to self-expression; Phillips-supported writing workshop deepens students' connections

By Terry Date tdate@eagletribune.com | Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 7:11 am

Story link: Giving rise to self-expression; Phillips-supported writing workshop deepens students' connections

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AMANDA SABGA/Staff photo - Students and group leaders perform a dance at last week's community celebration to cap off this summer's Re-envisioning Lawrence writing program offered through Andover Rising Loaves, a new collaboration involving Phillips Academy of Andover, Lawrence History Center, and UMass Lowell.

LAWRENCE — The kids lined up in the Essex Street courtyard in Lawrence at noon last Friday, notebooks in hand, nervously waiting their turn.

Lorena German, a writing teacher from Andover Bread Loaf, a Phillips Academy outreach, told the 30 preteens to take a deep breath.

She took one herself, and let it out slowly, prompting the kids to do the same.

The reading would begin momentarily, she said. Thirty poems or stories from 30 students. Friends and family were in the audience, seated and standing in the sun and shade.

For three weeks the students, entering grades five through seven this fall, had spent their days studying their city and setting at the writing workshop host site, the Lawrence History Center.

They were part of the Re-envisioning Lawrence student writing program, called Rising Loaves, a new collaboration between the Lawrence History Center, Andover Bread Loaf, Lawrence Public Schools and UMass Lowell.

Each day, the free program provided the kids writing, art and history instruction, together with breakfast and lunch. Friday’s celebration included Tripoli pizza, and rice, salsa and beans.

It was the third summer writing program for inner-city young people to come out of Phillips Andover Academy’s Bread Loaf program since 1988, said Lou Bernieri, executive director of Andover Bread Loaf.

The other two programs are for high school students and grade school students. Self-expression and community are cornerstones of all three programs, he said.

Friday was a community celebration as parents, family and friends came to see the young people present the art, music, drama, history and writing projects they had been working on.

They had also written on prompted topics each day, honing skills for a better sense of themselves, each other and where they live, Bread Loaf co-directors German and Mary Guerrero said.

Guerrero, who taught school in Lawrence for 30 years, said the students gained a sense of their place in the history of a city where many different immigrant groups have lived over the years.

“They see the connections, see themselves as part of this immigrant city,” she said.

And they processed their discoveries through thought.

Celeste Lozada, 12; Arenny Alvarado, 11; and Alexandra Gonzalez Tellez, 10, created a 5-foot mural that presented a fictitious story based on a real-life Lawrence event, the collapse of the Pemberton Mill.

Lozada also created a Rising Loaves logo. Students sported the logo on blue T-shirts Friday, the design featuring local landmarks: the clock tower with Pemberton Mill in the distance and a bread loaf-topped bridge in the foreground.

The logo put an eye on the city, a fitting visual given the emphasis the workshop placed on a sense of place.

Another Rising Loaves student who paid close attention to his surrounding was Ovanny Disla.

Disla created a tour, "The Invisible Eye," in the old carpentry shop at the history center. It smelled of dust and old wood, rust and oil.

He peered into corners, delved into cabinets and drawers, and surveyed loft storage and cubbyholes discovering old bottles, tools, pins, bolts and nails, pulley mechanisms, small paint tubes, cans of lacquer and other curiosities.

He urged visitors to touch the items, some rough, some smooth. He pointed to a corner window and a clock tower view.

Rising Loaves student Joel Tshimbalanga, 11, came to Lawrence 2 1/2 years ago, moving from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, with his sister, three brothers and mom and dad.

Over the past three weeks, he took photographs for a project including the Ayer Clock Tower, The Falls Bridge and blooming red roses.

He said he was sad to see the writing workshop end, and was nervous about not having it to go to in the coming weeks before school starts. But he was happy to have had the chance to attend it.

Other students appeared to feel the same way. They presented flowers and thanks to Lawrence History Center staff and Director Susan Grabski.

The midday courtyard experience included dance, song and, of course, the readings from the students, which brought the day's activities and program to a close.
Joel introduced each reader.

Mariela Gomez read a poem including the lines: “Love is calm. Love is a puzzle that never breaks.”

Arenny Alvarado read a poem including the lines: “In school I speak English, but at home I speak Spanish. It is like two different worlds I go to every day. I am the one who has to translate for my mom and dad.”

Ninive Matos read a poem including the lines: "Sometimes I write in my car even though I'm not supposed to, but writing for me is so addicting that's why I chose to go to an awesome program called Bread Loaf. Writing to me is life."

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Tue–Fri: 9am-4pm
Sat: By appt
Sun-Mon: Closed

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Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.